The Rural Question

Most of my ancestors were farmers.  Hence, most family events before the 20th Century occurred on the family farm - including births, marriages and deaths.  This has proved to be one of the more difficult sourcing challenges I've experienced over the years.  Let me explain:

When I first started doing genealogy I would include the nearest town as the place of residence.  For instance, a baby born on the family farm in San Joaquin County, California was written as occurring in Woodbridge, San Joaquin, California because that was the closest community to where they lived.

However, it dawned on me fairly quickly that this wasn't the right way to do things because the event never actually happened within the city limits of any town.  So, from then on whenever an event on a family farm needed to be recorded, I would just put county and state (i.e. Isabella County, Michigan).  More than anything, this was just a band-aid until I could come up with a permanent way of recording these events.

Now I'm cleaning up my family tree and this is a problem I'm once again faced with.  Do I stick with what I've done, county and state, or do I go a different route?  My concern since the beginning is that county and state just isn't enough information, and also that future generations won't know if I didn't know the town or if the event really did happen in a rural area.  But what alternatives are there?  The only one I can think of (and have used recently on a trial basis) is by putting "rural" or "farm" in place of a town, for instance: "Rural area, Marshall, Indiana."

How do you record events that did not happen within a community's jurisdiction?  This inquiring mind wants to know.


  1. A lot of my family were farmers as well so I run into this issue too. I try to record the location as close as I can. If I only know the county and state, that's what I put. If it occurred on the family farm, I put that with the qualifier it was just outside whatever community if I know that's where it is.

    I have one ancestor whose wife's pension application states he passed just outside a particular town. That's how I recorded his death location.

  2. When you find out, let me know. That way I'll know what to do about my own birthplace. My copy of my birth certificate has the name of the hospital crossed out and "en route to hospital" written in by my mom, another record has the city where the hospital was located. In fact, it was only en route if that can mean a sudden birth at home in nearby small town is "en route".


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